Phil Davis is about to check an opponent off of his career bucket list.
Davis will welcome fellow longtime UFC veteran Yoel Romero to the Bellator cage when they meet in the light heavyweight main event of Bellator 266. The card takes place this Saturday at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., the promotion’s home base. It will be the first event to take place in San Jose since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the beginning of 2020.
When asked if he thought a fight Romero would be possible five years ago, to say he would’ve been surprised is an understatement.
“That’s only half of the story: you would have to explain to me COVID and what’s a coronavirus,” Davis told MMA Fighting. “Life just takes you in crazy directions, right?
“I’m excited. He’s definitely a fan favorite, a guy that I like to watch fight. He’s a fighter that was always like, ‘This is how I would approach it, this is the angle I would come with.’ So it’s cool to be able to have that opportunity.”
Davis has fought the some of the very best the sport has had to offer throughout his 13-year, 28-fight professional career. When Bellator signed the likes of Romero and Anthony Johnson, the 36-year-old Davis admits his eyes lit up with excitement.
After losing in the first round of the grand prix, getting matched up with Romero was a welcome follow-up assignment.
“This is a fight I looked forward to in the tournament and to somehow get matched with this fight outside of it [is a great consolation prize],” Davis explained. “I appreciate every fight because it’s an opportunity to go out and showcase my athletic ability, but this is a special fight. It’s a bucket list fight for me.
“It’s everything to be back in San Jose. I love fighting in San Jose. I love big fights and this is one of them.”
One thing fans have had to say about Davis, despite having a very successful career which included capturing the Bellator light heavyweight title against Liam McGeary at Bellator 163 in 2016, is that his style may not be the most fan-friendly. Even the word “boring” has been thrown out towards the Alliance MMA standout.
The fight against Nemkov in April seemed to open up a lot of eyes to show that Davis can be exciting. While he’s focused on himself and what he brings to the table, Davis was asked to give his take on that narrative.
“A lot of times people can jump from one ship to the other because they want you to fight a certain way,” Davis said. “They say, ‘He’s physically built, we expect him to fight like Yoel Romero,’ however, that’s not my style. That’s not my style, that’s Yoel’s style. It looks like I should be very explosive and knock people out as soon as I touch them. My style is much more calculating, drawn out, I grapple people and wear them out, I choke them or break off their limbs.
“It’s kind of about expectations. Life is about expectations. When you expect something and it doesn’t happen it’s like, ‘I don’t like that.’ In a lot of ways, people only expect you to grapple when your Brazilian. And I’m like, how come I can’t be that guy? Neiman Gracie is spending an entire round on his back setting up triangles and this and that, kimuras, and people are cheering the whole time. Don’t get me wrong, he’s dope. He’s dope. He’s amazing. But like I said before, it’s about expectations.”
Romero will be looking for his first win in over three years. The 44-year-old had a 13-fight run in the UFC and enters his Bellator debut on the heels of a three-fight skid, dropping debated decisions to Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya. “Soldier of God” was scheduled to meet Anthony Johnson in the opening round of the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix before an eye issue forced him out of the tournament.
When asked for a prediction, Davis believes fans will be happy with how the fight plays out.
“Just create fireworks,” Davis predicted. “He’s an explosive guy and when you have that style, you live by the sword or you die by the sword.”